School of Geography

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Isla Forsyth

Associate Professor in Cultural and Historical Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences



I am interested in the natures of war; considering the ways in which nature has been militarised and militarism naturalised.

My research interests in cultural and historical geography focus on the geographical dimensions of a series of themes, including science and technology studies, critical military geography and more-than-human geographies.

In particular, I am interested how the North African desert has been framed as a violent landscape through a series of colonial and military interventions and the ways in which covert and deceptive strategies and technologies of warfare are legitimised.

In 2017 I published 'Second World War British Military Camouflage: Designing Deception, a historical geography of modern camouflage in the British military through a biography of the scientist, artist and camoufleur Dr Hugh Cott. The book charted camouflage's development, uncovering the history of an ambiguous invention and subverting a long dominant narrative of camouflage as a benign technology.

Currently, I am undertaking research into the development of covert warfare in the desert in WWII in order to analyse the entangled relationship between military mobilities, battlespace ecologies, and the embodied experiences of conflict, while tracing the lasting legacies of these on framings of North African and the Middle East in contemporary geopolitics.

Research Summary

I am keen to supervise the following topics:

Military technologies and their impacts on the geographies of war

Cultures of warfare and embodied experiences of conflict

Covert geographies of war

Animal and more-than-human geographies

Historical geographies of the desert

Recent Publications

  • FORSYTH, I., 2020. Hoarding the Everyday: The disquieting geographies of the Detectorists. In: KEIGHREN, I. & NORCUP, H., ed., Landscapes of Detectorists Uniform Books. 112
  • GIRAUD, E., HOLLINS, G., POTTS, T. and FORSYTH, I., 2018. A feminist menagerie Feminist Review. 61-79
  • FORSYTH, I., 2017. A bear’s biography: Hybrid warfare and the more-than-human battlespace Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 35, 495-512
  • FORSYTH, I., 2017. On the edges of military mobilities Political Geography. 56, 48-50
  • FORSYTH, I., 2017. Second World War British Military Camouflage: Designing Deception Bloomsbury Academic.
  • FORSYTH, I., 2017. Piracy on the high sands: Covert military mobilities in the Libyan Desert, 1940-1943’ Journal of Historical Geography. 61-70
  • HOLLINS, G., FORSYTH, I., GIRAUD, E. and POTTS, T., 2017. (Dis)entangling Barad: Materialisms and ethics Social Studies of Science. 918-941
  • FORSYTH, I., 2016. Desert Journeys: From exploration to covert operations The Geographical Journal. 182(3), 226-235
  • INGRAM, A. FORSYTH, I. AND GAULD, N., 2016. Beyond geopower: earthly and anthropic geopolitics in The Great Game by War Boutique cultural geographies. 23(4), 635-652
  • FORSYTH, I., 2016. Biography and the Military Archive. In: WILLIAM, A. JENKINGS, N. RECH, M. & WOODWARD, R., ed., The Routledge Companion to Military Research Methods Routledge Handbooks. 44-57
  • FORSYTH, I., 2016. More-than-human warfare Social and Cultural Geography. 17(5-6), 798-802
  • FORSYTH, I., 2015. The Lie of the Land: The Technology of Location and Craft of Erasure’. In: MACDONALD, F. AND WITHERS, C., ed., Geography, Technology and Instruments of Exploration Ashgate. 199-218
  • FORSYTH, I., 2014. Designs on the desert: camouflage, deception and the militarization of space Cultural Geographies. 21(2), 247-265
  • FORSYTH, I., 2014. The practice and poetics of fieldwork: Hugh Cott and the study of camouflage Journal of Historical Geography. 43(1), 128-137
  • FORSYTH, I., 2013. Subversive patterning: the surficial qualities of camouflage Environment and Planning A. 45(5), 1037-1052
  • FORSYTH. I. LORIMER, H. MERRIMAN, P. & ROBINSON, J., 2013. What are Surfaces? Environment and Planning A. 45(5), 1013-1020
  • FORSYTH, I., 2013. The More-Than-Human Geographies of Field Science Geography Compass. 7(8), 527-539
  • MCGEACHAN, C. FORSYTH, I. & HASTY, W., 2012. Certain Subjects? Working with Biography and Life-Writing in Historical Geography Historical Geography. 40, 169-185

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